Ronnie Allen, Jr., believes his experience and physical condition, honed during more than three decades of race-riding, will help him continue to win races for the next several years.
“I feel good. I feel strong,” said Allen, who turned 55 on April 24. “If I get the mounts, I'll be OK. The older guys (a category including such 50-plus Tampa Bay Downs mainstays as Jose Ferrer, Scott Spieth and younger brother Mike Allen) have plenty of experience on the younger riders, but you have to stay on top of it and be sharp.”
During a recent period of 11 racing days, Allen rode seven winners – four for his partner, trainer Maria Bowersock – to earn the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month Award.
The four-time Tampa Bay Downs riding champion (most recently in 2010-2011) has climbed to ninth in the Oldsmar standings with 24 victories.
When he moves his tack next week to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., Allen will employ Mike Moran as his agent. They hope to improve on Allen's seventh-place finish there in 2018.
“Mike has been helping me the last two weeks, and I'm still working with Paula (Bacon, his current agent) until this meeting ends,” Allen said.
Allen expects to be under close scrutiny at Presque Isle Downs after missing five weeks of the Tampa Bay Downs season, from Jan. 27-March 2, because of a relapse after almost 12 years of sobriety. He voluntarily committed to a residential treatment program at Turning Point of Tampa, where he was forced to confront his addiction to alcohol.
Allen said Sunday he has been sober 14 weeks (and counting). “I plan on not drinking the rest of my life,” said Allen, who said he relapsed “for no particular reason.
“This job can be stressful, and I may have forgotten how bad it used to be before I got sober in 2007. I have a disease, and it's something I have to take care of all the time because I can't stop after one drink,” he said. “I had to get my act together and get treatment and freshen up again.”
Allen is grateful to Bowersock and his father, former Thoroughbred trainer and Tampa Bay Downs employee Ronnie Allen, Sr., as well as the track's Vice President of Marketing & Publicity, Margo Flynn, for their support.
He attends several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week and has a sponsor he can contact whenever he feels a need to discuss personal issues.
Allen is following the 12-step program of AA, starting at the top: admitting he is powerless over alcohol, coming to believe a power greater than himself could restore him to sanity and turning his will and life over to the care of God, as he understands Him.
“The years I was sober were the happiest years of my life,” Allen said. “I want that again. I want to be happy and I want to be successful, and I'm not going to have that if I'm drinking.”
Allen, who says he confined his drinking to home, admits there were days he turned down assignments after drinking the previous day. “It definitely put me at a disadvantage,” he said. “I would rather sit at home and be lazy than work (when he was drinking).
“It was taking a toll on my business, and I knew I had to change something.”
Moran, a former jockey who will continue to represent Antonio Gallardo at Presque Isle Downs, said he is excited to work with Allen.
“Everybody makes mistakes, and he has taken steps to take care of his problem,” Moran said. “The past few weeks, he has been focused like he has been for years. I respect him as a rider and I think he respects me as an agent, and it is my job to get him on as many horses as I can that have a good chance of winning.
“Ronnie rides hard to the wire, he tries hard every race and he's just as strong as he's ever been,” Moran said. “He puts horses in the right spots in a race; he's not on the rail if the rail is a little dead, and he gets to the rail if that's the place to be. He's been fun to watch the last few weeks, and I'm looking forward to working with him at Presque Isle.”
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